The NFL Competition Committee, the talented group of brainiacs that meet each offseason and discuss the minutiae of the NFL game experience, are proposing moving kickoffs from the 30 to the 35 yard-line for reasons of player safety I simply don’t understand. The belief currently circulating is that kickoff returns are responsible for a lack of player safety and not the remaining 97% of action wherein a series of three hundred pound men kick the shit out of each other.
UPDATE: KICKOFFS OFFICIALLY MOVED TO 35. TOUCHBACKS REMAIN AT 20. PER NFL.COM.
Now comes word that the Bears are planning to vote against this proposal and damn it good for them. The Bears have designed an offense that depends upon the yardage attained with their league-best return game and have structured their roster salaries accordingly. To suddenly change rules and allow kickers to easily knock the ball to the back of the end zone would be a severe detriment to this organization – and would brandish harsher results than anywhere else in the league.
Eliminating the kickoff return game would also eliminate one of the most exciting elements of the sport. Player safety is an important matter to me but the solution to that issue is not attempting to limit the number of times players actually get hit. That’s foolish and reductive. The solution is putting the players in situations where they can sustain those hits without damage beneath the pads and if damage is sustained, removing them from the playing surface. Anybody else find it odd that hockey and baseball players miss months due to concussions and football players often get back on the field within a half hour?
The Bears should take a stand on this. So should the Browns. And the Seahawks. And the Jets. And any other team with a premier kick return game. Making the game safer is fine. Changing the rules to make it less contact-driven is pandering to pressure and avoiding the sport’s real issues.